Special Report: As the River Flows Part 1

All 190 miles of the Manistee River is full of great canoeing, kayaking and fishing, but it also creates moments that people remember forever.

In part one this Special Report: As the River Flows, Corey Adkins shows us why this river is so important to so many.

Smithville Landing is a family owned business. We are second generation. My father-in-law loved, absolutely loved canoeing and wanted to share that with a lot of other people,” said Tammy Smith.

Forace Smith loved the Manistee River. He founded Smithville Landing on the main branch of the Manistee River near Fife Lake 52 years ago.

“Everybody called him Smitty. He had a wonderful personality and he befriended everybody, he was just that type of person,” explained Tammy.

Smitty passed away 13 years ago but as the river flows, so does his memory.

“Manistee River holds a ton of memories, not only for our family, but for customers that come up,” said Tammy.

Imagine the thousands of memories this river holds, from its headwaters up by Mancelona to its mouth in Manistee. But have you ever thought: Where does all this water come from?

“We have water pouring into this river every minute of every day of the year,” said Tammy.

For that we headed up to Grass Lake by Kalkaska to part of the headwaters for the north branch of the Manistee. The Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy just purchased the land last year. Tens of thousands of gallons of water come out of the ground every day, and it all starts from the sky.

“All the water here is basically part of the water cycle. Most of that precipitation hits the ground and sinks in. The ground water mirrors the surface of the land and it flows downhill through the ground, just as it does on the surface, and so the lake here is a collection of ground water flowing from the east and where the surface of the ground water and surface land intersect: that’s where you have surface water,” explained Chris Sullivan, director of land protection. “So eventually, all their precipitation that comes in it either goes down to fill an aquifer well below ground, or in the case here it finds its way to the surface and flows out towards the Manistee.”

The waters of Grass Lake and Manistee Lake meet to form the north branch, along with dozens of other tributaries, swamps and springs. You can see from the air how complex this system is.

“The north branch is one of the biggest tributaries to the main branch of the Manistee River. So everything flows down to Sharon, what used to be and all the lumber town into the Manistee,” said Chris.

Sharon is an old lumber town and it’s where the north branch feeds the mighty Manistee. It’s also where Smithville Landing start some of their canoe trips, a place Smitty loved.

“It just got into his blood and I think he just wanted to share his love being on the water,” said Tammy.

Eventually all that water ends up in the Victorian port town of Manistee. And no matter what section of the river you make your memories on, it’s a resource we all can enjoy.

“It truly is amazing, and it’s right here in our backyard!” said Tammy.

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